The wind blowing a gale from the north, a hard glittering cacophany of wind. I sit in the kitchen peeling the small tartly sweet tangerines known as naartjes out here. A luxury to breakfast on fruit. From all my doubtings and musings this last week I have surfaced with a handful of grit and dust and the odd pearly nacreous treasure, motley insights about depression, loneliness, simple unhappiness.
Xenophobic riots in a nearby farming town, Nigerian-owned shops burned down. Then quiet again, seeming tranquillity with tensions sinking below the surface for a few weeks or months. The desperation of poverty and deprivation, the threat of destitution, the communities that fail those at the edges.
The wind blowing hard so that tree branches rasp together. On the counter next to the sink I have a small pile of French beans to be topped and tailed, a chapter to be written, a fiction scene making and unmaking itself in my head. The dogs sit in a queue waiting for their 9am biscuits, obedient and trusting. The writing sticks and stumbles in my mind, the analogical imagination at odds with the dialectical imagination. I’m reading Clarice Lispector:
Now I’m going to write wherever my hand leads: I won’t fiddle with whatever it writes. This is a way to have no lag between the instant and I: I act in the core of the instant. But there’s still some lag. It starts like this: as love impedes death, and I don’t know what I mean by that. I trust in my own incomprehension that gives me life free of understanding, I lost friends, I don’t understand death. The horrible duty is to go to the end. And counting on no one. To live your life yourself. And to suffer as much to dull myself a bit. Because I can no longer carry the sorrows of the world. What can I do when I feel totally what other people are and feel? I live them but no longer have the strength. I don’t want to tell even myself certain things. It would be to betray the is-itself. I feel that I know some truths. But truths have no words.
On the other end of the phone a friend wanting a recipe for an Asian laksa, so I fetch a cookbook and sit poring over combinations of minced lemongrass, holy basil, spring onions, garlic, chillies, lime juice, coconut milk. We laugh, and in between the details of the recipe we gossip, nothing too malicious, joking and teasing, thinking about how hard it is to spoon up noodles and slurp spicy broth without spilling. We spill and burn a little, all of us, learning to cook, learning to connect.What can be said and what is better left silent.
But so much is sayable, so much can be said to work its rough magic on us — from Adrienne Rich, on the one great choice underlying all our other choices and decisions, the choice to live no matter what, to embrace it all, endure it all, to know radical acceptance –